Don't you love it when an author meanders around the blogosphere, sees a comment or post you've written, and then contacts you and offers you their book? That is exactly what happened with "Skinny". I had read a guest post by Diana on Heather's blog (Book Addiction), and was really taken with her totally hip and cool personality. Which scored me a book. I'd been hearing good things about it, so I wasted no time in picking it up. And as luck and fate would have it, my other blogging half Jill (Rhapsody in Books) was reading it too, so we decided to post our thoughts simultaneously.
Synopsis: Gray has spend her entire life watching her parents obsess over food. Her mother on one end of the spectrum, eating close to nothing, and her father, an obese binge-eater. When her father dies of a heart-attack, and Gray is left with elephant-sized baggage filled with unresolved daddy issues, it is no surprise that she goes from a calorie-counting dieter to a binge-eater. Over the period of a year, she gains 15 pounds (a horror for her) and drifts away from her live-in boyfriend.
In the process of resolving her father's will, Gray discovers that her father has been supporting an illegitimate child named Eden. When Gray learns that Eden is severely overweight and is attending a kids' weight-loss camp over the summer, Gray signs up for the same camp as a counselor to get closer to her half-sister.
The camp, as it turns out, isn't the answer to Gray's problems. The camp director is a sham; nobody working there is qualified. There is a whole undercurrent of psychological distress with the campers and the counselors, none of which are handled appropriately. Gray begins having an affair with one of the fitness instructors, knowing there will ultimately be repercussions. Gray begins to sort out her emotions on her weight and body image, the half-sister she can't connect with, and her love life. But the question is...can she fix herself or is it too late?
My thoughts: Jill and I had a good time hashing out this book via e-mail, and in one conversation, I decided to list all the plot lines present in this story. I mean, it was everywhere. Here was the quick list I was able to rattle off, and chances are I'm missing a few:
The reason behind the disconnect between father and daughter
Relationships drifting apart
Eating to mask bigger problems
Obsession with being skinny and body image
Sham of a weight camp
Cheating on boyfriend
Connection with half-sister
Psycho camp counselor
So yes, we cover alot of ground here. It made for a quick entertaining read, but feeling a tad bit scattered.
I also really didn't like Gray. She was extremely selfish, and had some serious, deeply-embedded hang-ups that prevented her from a meaningful connection with anyone. I would expect that she went on to live a very lonely life. I was REALLY annoyed that she treated 15 pounds like the end of the world. Seriously? In my world, it is sucky to have to lose 15 pounds, but this is not insurmountable. As the book progressed though, I realized that the obsession over the 15 pounds was just a symptom of bigger issues.
At the same time I felt bad for Gray. I can relate to the body image issues, and everything that goes with it. It seemed like she wanted to be a better person, but just didn't have it in her.
Also up for debate was the way Spechler wrapped up the book. In about two pages, she summarized the rest of Gray's life in a sort of fast forward big picture summary. It was jarring to be moving along at a steady pace, then go into hyperspeed for the last two pages. I had to read it a couple times just to make sure I caught everything. Was it poignant? Was it rushed? I can't decide.
As much as it sounds like I'm being critical though, I did enjoy reading the book. It is certainly discussion-worthy, and would be a great book club pick. I'd like to thank Diana Spechler for sending me a copy of her book (she really is hip and cool).
Want another take on "Skinny"? Hop on over to Jill's place.